Saturday, April 30, 2005

Your Linguistic Profile:

80% General American English

10% Yankee

5% Midwestern

5% Upper Midwestern

0% Dixie

I got this blogthing off of Brian's site and was very intrigued. I have always thought I speak differently from my fellow Americans, mostly by my trying to imitate my father, who was born and raised in Blackpool, England. I have realized later in life that my dad left England at the age of sixteen and he doesn't sound American, but doesn't sound British either. When you put my dad next to his relatives (he and my mom are in England right now, by the way), he does not sound like them. I never thought I sounded Midwestern.

I wonder why this test doesn't have words like "ain't" and use of double negatives and "gonna." Living out here in Washington State, I hear the Chicago in my accent from time to time. I guess this test shows what I thought, really, that I, as a language-oriented fellow, usually speak General American English. But I wonder where that is exactly.

Seven Soldiers #0. Grant Morrison's ambitious comics event starts here. I was worried about this one, especially the way the comic started--seemed really weird. But it ended up being a fantastic comic. He lived up to his own hype. Now it just remains to be seen if the rest in the series, something like six four-issue mini-series and these "bookends" holds up to it.

The Man of Steel #3 of 6. The first team-up of Superman and Batman in the modern era.

The Man of Steel #2 of 6.

Justice League Elite #10 of 12. This series went nowhere fast. I don't think it lived up to the hype.

Green Lantern: Rebirth #5 of 6. What a kick ass series, especially for us Hal Jordan fans. Absolutely top notch.

Captain America #296.

Captain America #295.

Captain America #294. It is with a heavy heart that I start scanning in my Captain America comics. They're really not mine. They once belonged to a guy I knew in high school by the name of Joe Underwood. He got rid of all his comics in high school. I remember him saying that he wanted me to have them because I was a collector and would take care of them. A year later, during my college freshman year spring break, he committed suicide. I now know all those signs of his giving his prized possessions away. But I didn't see it in high school. I save these as a prized area in my collection because of him. I should write more about him later because I think about him every once in a while still.

Breach #4. A new comic that I tried because of...well, Superman was on the cover. I actually found it quite interesting. I might get the back issues because there is a mystery there about the main character that was intriguing.

Action Comics #826. With Captain Marvel. Did you know that Captain Marvel was once deemed by the courts to be such a Superman ripoff that Fawcett Comics was forced to cease publication of his title?

Action Comics #689. Part of the Reign of the Supermen storyline when Superman came back from the dead.

Teacher Comments

These were the comments from the teacher on my critical paper. OUCH! is all I have to say. Admittedly, I kind of stopped major revisions on this paper when I found out about my possible layoff at work, but I still don't think I would have fixed some of these things. I apparently have to really buckle down on these big papers. But I pulled out my A- for the class! Truly, didn't I really learn the material, the poetic forms that we studied? Do I have to fix sentence errors to get my A? I think the teacher realized this along the way with my regular assignments. I learned my stuff. If I were a full time student, I wouldn't have any excuse not to have this paper perfect. But I have a teaching job (for now!) and a wife and kids that take time away. Not an excuse but a reason.


Your critical paper received a "B"; that gives you an "A-" for the class.

You had a number of problems with your paper that prevented it from receiving an "A." Your syntax was often awkward. In the first paragraph (in the space of four sentences), you used the phrase "thought to be" three times.

Also on page one, you said, "This poem received immediate popularity." How does something receive popularity? Something can achieve popularity or receive acclaim, but receive popularity? Awkward.

On page two, you said, "Although stilted and simple, Wilde's influence and reputation definitely helped this form along." Wilde's influence and reputation was stilted? That's what your sentence says. I assume you mean the poem was stilted, but that's not what you said. You had a number of misplaced modifiers such as this in your paper.

More important were problems in logic and accuracy. One page one, in reference to the villanelle, you say, "The twentieth century shaped this form and modern masters have learned ways to turn these fixed rules into serious poetry." So, the poets who were writing villanelle prior to the 20th century were not serious? Their poems were frivolous?

In discussing Dylan Thomas’s poem, you say, “Thomas also uses enjambment to make the repetition less noticeable and this helps it flow better from one stanza to the next.” Only two of the 19 lines evince enjambment; this is rather slight use of the technique, and I'm not sure how that makes the repetition less noticeable­-none of the repeated lines are enjambed.

I could go on, but I won't. I hope you enjoyed the class. I appreciated your participation.


Critical Paper on the Villanelle

Matt Butcher
English 640
April 25, 2005

The Villanelle

Some forms of poetry are thought to be fixed. These forms were created and set by some master of the craft long ago. The villanelle is thought to be one of those fixed forms. However, the villanelle, while having its first appearance four hundred years ago, is now thought to be a twentieth century creation. The twentieth century shaped this form and modern masters have learned ways to turn these fixed rules into serious poetry.

The villanelle's origin is shrouded in French and Italian dance. Its origins in Italian are from a simple rustic life: villa means farm and villano means farmhand. Historically, the Italian villanella was a rustic dance, or the music for such a dance” (Unst). If it was a repetitive song to pass agricultural time, a round song with refrains to pass the time (Strand and Boland 6), it was a type of song probably fixed much like the oral tradition of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The gist is always there but the account changes over time, much like the form of the villanelle has changed with the passage of time.

It wasn't until the late sixteenth century that the form began to be written by “courtly composers [who] imitated peasant songs of the oral tradition” (Kane). Even these had no fixed form, as evidenced by the work of Donna G. Cardonne, who surveyed “musical villanesche lyrics published between 1537 and 1559...[where] none of the dozens of rhyme schemes she catalogs bears even a slight resemblance to the present-day form of the villanelle” (Kane).
The form that has come to represent the villanelle has been attributed to a French poet, Jean Passerat. Published in 1606, his “J'ay perdu my Tourterelle” is thought to be the first villanelle (French, “The First Villanelle”) to have established the following rhyme scheme and repetition of lines (Kane):

A¹bA² abA¹ abA² abA¹A².
J'ay perdu ma Tourterelle:
Est-ce point celle que j'oy?
Je veus aller aprés elle.

Tu regretes ta femelle,
Helas! aussi fai-je moy,
J'ay perdu ma Tourterelle.

Si ton Amour est fidelle,
Aussi est ferme ma foy,
Je veus aller aprés elle.

Ta plainte se renouvelle;
Tousjours plaindre je me doy:
J'ay perdu ma Tourterelle.

En ne voyant plus la belle
Plus rien de beau je ne voy:
Je veus aller aprés elle.

Mort, que tant de fois j'appelle,
Pren ce qui se donne à toy:
J'ay perdu ma Tourterelle,
Je veus aller aprés elle.

(French, “The First Villanelle.” An English translation by Amanda French appears in the appendix.)

This poem received immediate popularity, “amounting to popular-song status in its day” (Strand and Boland 7). This poem was so well-liked that it was often loosely imitated. No other cultivators of the form during Passerat's time period made an impact and the villanelle fell into history. It wasn't until 1872 when a treatise by Théodore de Banville influenced poets of the time (Kane). In it, “the primary motivation in the dissemination of the villanelle in the nineteenth century is post-Romantic campaigning” (French, “Refrain” 84). Luckily, the villanelle was one of many forms that enjoyed attention during the Victorian period (Bristow). It wasn't until the late nineteenth century, with a resurgence of interest in old French forms, that the famous Oscar Wilde in 1891 contributed a villanelle that “shows the form ready to be launched into the twentieth century (Strand and Boland 7).

Theocritus - A Villanelle
by Oscar Wilde

O singer of Persephone!
In the dim meadows desolate
Dost thou remember Sicily?

Still through the ivy flits the bee
Where Amaryllis lies in state;
O Singer of Persephone!

Simaetha calls on Hecate
And hears the wild dogs at the gate;
Dost thou remember Sicily?

Still by the light and laughing sea
Poor Polypheme bemoans his fate;
O Singer of Persephone!

And still in boyish rivalry
Young Daphnis challenges his mate;
Dost thou remember Sicily?

Slim Lacon keeps a goat for thee,
For thee the jocund shepherds wait;
O Singer of Persephone!
Dost thou remember Sicily?

This poem shows the beginning of the repetitive structure that would be used in the twentieth century. Although stilted and simple, Wilde's influence and reputation definitely helped this form along.

Probably the most famous villanelle is Dylan Thomas' 1952 “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” In this poem, Dylan's recurring lines act as a refrain that he wants his father to aspire to while lying on his death bed.

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

With a series of repetitions and only two rhymes, the form of the villanelle “enables Thomas to build his poem in gradual stages while keeping the focus on his most important message” (BBC.Co.UK). Thomas also uses enjambment to make the repetition less noticeable and this helps it flow better from one stanza to the next.

It is the repetition that creates the resonance with the reader. This repetition allows easier understanding and remembrance of the main points. The two repeating lines are at the heart of the villanelle.

Edwin Arlington Robinson sees the form as his chance to interweave his main idea throughout the poem.

The House on the Hill
by Edwin Arlington Robinson

They are all gone away,
The House is shut and still,
There is nothing more to say.

Through broken walls and gray
The winds blow bleak and shrill:
They are all gone away.

Nor is there one to-day
To speak them good or ill:
There is nothing more to say.

Why is it then we stray
Around that sunken sill?
They are all gone away,

And our poor fancy-play
For them is wasted skill:
There is nothing more to say.

There is ruin and decay
In the House on the Hill:
They are all gone away,
There is nothing more to say.

This poem uses the repeating lines to connect one stanza to the next, to further expound upon his emotion in the poem. Strand and Boland see this as the form's strength, “the absence of narrative possibility” (8). However, it is when the poet builds on the refrain from stanza to stanza that the mastery of the poet creates a strong foundation of emotion and atmosphere with which to leave the reader. “The repetitions build the villanelle //By moving out beyond the tercet's cell” (Hollander 40). Building upon these repetitions from stanza to stanza creates the power behind the poetic form of the villanelle. Each stanza can deepen the feelings in the poem.
This repetition has been used in a haunting fashion. “Do you have a feeling or idea that haunts you? Then the Villanelle may be the form you need” (Unst). Sylvia Plath, known for dark and depressing literature, a kind of haunting, has used the villanelle to show a recurring and unforgettable torment.

Mad Girl's Love Song
by Sylvia Plath

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"

Plath's repetition of “(I think I made you up inside my head” has an almost chant-like quality. The reader begins to think that the speaker is truly mad by repeating these lines.
More modern poets like the villanelle and realized they could use the form as an “acoustic chamber for single words” (Strand and Boland 20). Elizabeth Bishop in “One Art” keeps the rhyme scheme but the repeating lines are not necessarily duplicated word for word. These lines repeat the same idea if not the same words. “Usually they vary the content of the repeated lines, to soften the strict repetition of the traditional form” (Unst).

One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

The villanelle is a poetic form that reprocesses many of the same words, challenging the common notion that all poems have to rhyme on a deeper level. Reusing the same words can tend to get stale, especially in an art form that prides itself on finding the right word for every situation, so the reutilization of these words must have a deeper meaning.

“One Art” tells the story of loss. A short biography of the poet expresses a life that is filled with the loss of loved ones and moving from place to place because of it. This recurring theme is showcasing how she becomes inured to the loss of these loved ones, something she has to experience again and again. The villanelle seems an ultimate expression of this reliving the same nightmare over and over.

The villanelle repeats a certain pattern of words and lines. In this regard, the choice of those words to a poet must be extraordinary. The majority of Bishop’s choices are words like “loss,” “disaster,” and “losing.” It must be important to choose the word form of “loss” and use it repeatedly, even in a present tense form of “losing,” indicating that she doesn’t think these events are over, that this cycle will repeat as it has done so often in her tumultuous past. The villanelle is perfect in that regard.

In another regard, Strand and Boland express that the villanelle “…form refuses to tell a story. It circles around and around, refusing to go forward in any kind of linear development, and so suggesting at the deepest level, powerful recurrences of mood and emotion and memory” (8). Bishop keeps circling because on that inner level she is trying to talk herself into these events not being the “disaster” that they are to her life. On a conscious level, Bishop is aware that she must get over these events in order to move on with her life. On the subconscious level, she doesn’t believe it, and has to reiterate the same message to herself over and over, as the events that spawn these messages happen over and over. It is cyclical in the respect that the harsh events of her life recurring over and over will not let her move on into a linear development because she is afraid of it happening again, much like the form of the poem refuses to let her move on. Bishop’s “One Art” is an argument within the author. Like many people, the author is losing this argument with herself.

The poetry of Bruce Bennett perceives the connection with the subject matter in his poetry. The recurring lines almost act as an extended metaphor. Up until recently, the form refused to tell a story. Bennett uses the form to connect an image to a greater concern, thus moving the poem and ideas behind it forward. In a way, we escape the poem.

by Bruce Bennett

It's not the liquid spreading on the floor,
A half a minute's labor with the mop;
It's everything you've ever spilled, and more.

The stupid broken spout that wouldn't pour;
The nasty little salesman in the shop.
It's not the liquid spreading on the floor,

A stain perhaps, a new, unwelcome chore,
But scarcely cause for sobs that will not stop.
It's everything you've ever spilled, and more.

It's the disease for which there is no cure,
The starving child, the taunting brutal cop.
It's not the liquid spreading on the floor

But through a planet, rotten to the core,
Where things grow old, get soiled, snap off, or drop.
It's everything you've ever spilled, and more:

The vision of yourself you can't ignore,
Poor wretched extra clinging to a prop!
It's not the liquid spreading on the floor.
It's everything you've ever spilled, and more.

This poem moves from the mop to the “nasty little salesman,” comparing the spill to the life of a salesman. “The poem then moves in the final stanza back from the universal to the particular, back to the image of the self, a devastating return in such a dark poem” (Darling). It is this return to its own images that creates deeper and lasting images to the reader.

Nancy O'Dea Reddy, herself a writer of the villanelle (see Appendix), references the framework that makes up the repetitions in the form. They act as a skeleton to the poem. In her poem “Metonymy,” itself not a villanelle, the poet knows about the soul of the poem being the inherent repetitions. It is the repetitions that help create meaning in the poem that words leave behind. In this excerpt from “Metonymy,” she references this:

She had no other language,
only the symmetry of fist and throat,
only the bones, their repetitions like
a villanelle, the whisper: wounded,

Amazingly, this poetic form called the villanelle has never been truly fixed. “That the Emperor has no clothes and the fixed-form villanelle has no history prior to the nineteenth century is a thrilling scandal” (French, “Refrain” 187). From its rustic beginnings as a song, the villanelle has cemented itself among the greatest of poetic forms. Its use of repetition has become a favorite of poets past and present. It is this repetition, this reprocessing of powerful feeling that has evoked some of the most memorable poetry ever produced. Thought to be fixed-form, modern poets have adapted it, repeating thoughts but not necessarily the exact lines. In a sense, the villanelle has come around like the circling of its own form, back to deeper connections to the themes it involves and the readers who connect with them.

Works Cited

BBC.Co.UK. BBC – Wales – Dylan Thomas – Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. 24 April 2005.

Bristow, Joseph. “Whether 'Victorian' Poetry: A Genre and Its Period.” Victorian Poetry 42:1 Spring 2004: 81-109. Project MUSE. National University Library System, San Diego. 24 April 2005.

Darling, Robert. “Expansive Poetry & Music Online Poetry Review: It's Hard to Get the Angle Right.” 24 April 2005.

French, Amanda. “The First Villanelle: A New Translation of Jean Passerat's 'J'ay perdu my Tourterelle (1574).'” Meridian Fall/Winter 2003. 24 April 2005.
French, Amanda. “Refrain, Again: The Return of the Villanelle.” Diss. U of Virginia, 2004. 25 April 2005.

Hollander, John. Rhyme's Reason, Third Edition. Yale University Press: New Haven, 2000.
Kane, Julie. “The Myth of the Fixed-Form Villanelle.” Modern Language Quarterly 64:4, December 2003: 427-443.

Reddy, Nancy O'Dea. “August Villanelle, and: Metonymy.” Prairie Schooner 78:1, Spring 2004: 174- 175.

Robinson, Edwin Arlington. “The House on the Hill.” 24 April 2005.

Strand, Mark and Eavan Boland, Eds. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. New York: Norton. 2000.

Unst, Ariadne. “The Villanelle Verse Form.” 15 September 2002. 24 April 2005.

Wilde, Oscar. “Theocritus – A Villanelle.” 24 April 2005.

Villanelle (translation by Amanda French)

I have lost my turtledove:
Isn't that her gentle coo?
I will go and find my love.

Here you mourn your mated love;
Oh, God—I am mourning too:
I have lost my turtledove.

If you trust your faithful dove,
Trust my faith is just as true;
I will go and find my love.

Plaintively you speak your love;
All my speech is turned into
"I have lost my turtledove."

Such a beauty was my dove,
Other beauties will not do;
I will go and find my love.

Death, again entreated of,
Take one who is offered you:
I have lost my turtledove;
I will go and find my love.

Jean Passerat

August Villanelle

Late August nights, sky cooling, bright with fireflies:
I keep remembering the ache and burn
of sunsets, scarlet threads through broken skies.

These nights alone are quiet now. The sighs
of stars echo my pulse with your return
this August night. Cool sky bright with fireflies,

the sullen shadows flood your blue-gray eyes.
Each neighbor’s porch light flares up in turn
as the sun sets, scarlet threads through broken skies.

My muscles tense with memory, the surprise
of your thick breath again. I can’t unlearn
those August nights, sky cooling, bright with fireflies.

I’m watching your profile and I realize
you’re never really coming home. Still I yearn
for sunsets, scarlet threads through broken skies,

your palm against my hip, the solemn cries
for touch. You’re gone, you leave nothing but the burn
of August nights, sky cooling, bright with fireflies,
the sunsets, scarlet threads through broken skies.

Nancy O'Dea Reddy

Friday, April 29, 2005

Action Comics #583. The second of the two-parter. One of the best Superman stories ever.

Superman #423. The first part of the last Superman story by Alan Moore. This ended his 1938-1986 age and started the current age of Superman, right after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Concrete Poetry: Set in Stone

Matt Butcher
English 640
April 26, 2005

Concrete Poetry: Set in Stone

With e. e. cumings, is well known that he does not even capitalize his own name. Punctuation and spacing is ever-present to his poetry. It is no small wonder when reading a poem by cummings that the reader must take into account how the poem is set up on the page. This is concrete poetry at its finest.

One of cummings' poems is “she being Brand” which uses purposeful punctuation to make the point of trying to drive your first manual transmission. If you read this exceprt of the poem with the punctuation intact, you understand the rhythm of the poem as opposed to that first car drive where the engine sputters and coasts and then sputters again. It also utilizes line spacing to full effect.

she being Brand

-new;and you
know consequently a
little stiff i was
careful of her and(having

thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.

K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

up,slipped the
clutch(and then somehow got into reverse she
kicked what
the hell)next
minute i was back in neutral tried and

again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg. ing(my

lev-er Right-
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
second-in-to-high like
greasedlightning)just as we turned the corner of Divinity

avenue i touched the accelerator and give

her the juice,good


was the first ride and believe i we was
happy to see how nice she acted right up to
the last minute coming back down by the Public
Gardens i slammed on

brakes Bothatonce and

brought allofher tremB
to a:dead.

e.e. cummings

I use this poem as an example of the e.e. cummings poem to truly analzye, a concrete poem weirdly called “1(a...(a leaf falls on loneliness)”.
1(a... (a leaf falls on loneliness)





e.e. cummings

Concrete poems are hard to define themselves, but basically they are a “poem that forms a picture of the topic or follows the contours of a shape that is suggested by the topic” (Pravda). At first, it looks like the author kept hitting the enter key a little too often, or that the keyboard was stuck. This is not the case at all. It is all purposeful. Immediately, the reader can see the leaf falling from its height in the tree to the ground.

It may have been just me, but there was a hard to perceive difference between the author's “l” and his “1,” just like when I type it on my keyboard. This further emphasizes the lone leaf falling. Leaves do not usually fall in clumps. Does the open parenthesis allude to a beginning? Or is it another indicator of loneliness, where a single parenthesis is not complete without its partner?

The reader can see the leaf floating gently to the ground, wafting on the air currents as only leaves can do. At one point it seems to hover, with the line break after “fa/ll.”It seems to float backward, as the “l” in “loneliness” is actually on the line underneath the beginning of the word. Could it be flipping over or changing?

Cummings may have been trying to further explicate the singularity of the leaf with what looks like the French articles “la” and “le,” basically meaning “the” or a single item. There is also “one” specifically present on a single line. Even this may be an extension of the fact that there is one line made up of “ll”, indicating that two “ones” may come together, but then get separated by that final close parenthesis. Maybe the speaker is seeing the falling leaf as a kindred spirit as it falls upon him.Maybe cummings sees the coming together with the solitary leaf as his expression that not all solitude lasts forever, that eventually single objects (people) do find each other at the weirdest of moments.

Then there is that last line, “iness.” I would love to see how this was originally presented typewritten. Does the “i” further the solitude, like the “1” and the “l”? In that case, what is actually presented on the page is something like “One-ness” and one, as they say, is the loneliest number. It is presented here in a single column of text.

I have studied cummings' work before and it never ceases to amaze me that what seem to be stray marks on the paper, like in “she being Brand”, are actually purposeful marks that mean more than first appearance. Looking at “she being Brand” the first time without help makes you want to understand it, and as you read it, the jigsaw puzzle fills in. Cummings experimented with the language, spelling, punctuation, and above all, the shape of most of his poems. “1(a...(a leaf falls on loneliness)” can have no other way of being presented, in essence, a perfect concrete poem because its pattern is set.

Works cited: “1(a...(a leaf falls on loneliness) – e.e. cummings”. 26 April 2005. <> “she being Brand...(XIX) – e.e. cummings”. 26 April 2005.

Pravda, Kay. “Concrete Poems.” 26 April 2005.

First Masters Class

My first Masters class was an outright success! I got an A! I got an A! Granted, it was a 90% and I did only average on my final paper but I pulled out an A! On my final paper, which I will post later, I received 165 out of 200 points, an 82.5%. Not bad. I knew it wasn't my best work and at one point, after over ten hours straight with it, I actually stopped and said, "That's good enough." I wish I could see the teacher's comments on it, though.

That's another thing I've always been good at. Working the class. I am an exceptional student, mostly from the standpoint that I present myself to the teacher and do a little more than the required minimums. During the month, we had discussions to post online where you had to respond to a minimum of two or three other students' work. I always responded to at least five. This boosted my points for that area. I really think he set my grade where he did on my paper because if it had been two points lower, I would have missed the A-. Present yourself well during the term and it reaps rewards at the end. This has always worked.

Next class is Multicultural Literature in America, or something like that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Action Comics #369. Quite a good story too. Superman destroys something before he gets the full scoop.

Action Comics #453.

Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane. Sometimes, I am surprised that Superman lasted through the sixties and seventies.

Adam Hughes.


I haven't written in a couple of days because I found out on Monday that my position here at Bremerton School District may be subject to RIF. Reduction In Force. I may be RIFed.

So I was just distraught Monday. At least the principal had the guts to tell me personally and not some impersonal note. But he pretty much said get your stuff together because we don't know how deep these cuts will be. I took Tuesday off completely to draw up a new resume and start the online search. You can't just go to one place--each district's website needs to be visited and forms need to be filled out and letters of recommendation need to be begged for and written.

This is my second year in the district, my first year provisional contract. Last year I was on a one-year replacement contract. They haven't had to hire many new people lately.

So I may be cut by the cold and impersonal numbers. I make about half of what the thirty-year teachers do and I'll be cut but that's seniority--if I were in their position I'd agree that newbies get cut first.

Amy is a little freaked out. Who can blame her. There's always subbing, so I won't be out of a job, but I have two kids and a wife. I need those benefits, man.

So I need to look for another district, just in case. Hopefully this is all a moot point because I love Bremerton. I love my coworkers. This may make my family move, to anywhere in Washington State I can find a full-time position. Amy is even looking at the requirements for teaching in other states. Maybe this is the experience that gets me to move again. Maybe Oregon. Maybe Canada. At least Amy's job as a hairdresser can be done anywhere.

So I can't help but think that if they get rid of the position, the thirty-plus kids that are going to be in every classroom. I manage 80 students through three periods. Those will then be dispersed among three other ninth-grade English teachers. They thought performance was down before--now they will see it plummet.

It's only the numbers. Just the numbers.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Best Bob Dylan Song

By far:

I Believe In You

Amy has it on the three disc Biograph CD set. Absolutely amazing.


The third in the series of numbered poems, this one composed the day the U.S. went to liberate Kuwait. More Whitman influence.


(On January 15, 1991)

I sing to America,
That heavenly land of mine,
Though in short,
I think it not be thine.

I sing to the soldiers
Who do this country proud.
Though casualty may fall,
Your names be shouted loud.

I sing to the people
With that one pronoun, WE!
Though we will not leave
Without loss or fee.

I sing to war
The damnest dirge I know.
For if war be not right
Why do we go?

Gosh is this bad.


After studying haiku in depth, I'm not sure I fully understand them, and I'm an English major in a graduate program. For being seventeen syllables or less, they sometimes take more work to decipher than Eliot's work (The Wasteland and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock). My assignment on haiku received more points than my last assignment and I thought the haiku one was bad. See what I mean?

Anybody that comes here: leave a haiku in the comments. Write a haiku on your blog. We all can write these.

Here's mine:

Clock chimes three
My work is only
halfway done.

The Man of Steel #1 of 6. The first comic in the modern Superman era. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, the reconstructed many DC characters. John Byrne set up Superman with this mini-series from 1986.

Justice League Quarterly # 7 from Summer 1992.

Justice League Quarterly #6 from Spring 1992.

Justice League Quarterly #1 from Winter 1990. This was a series of fun comics. And worth the price because of its huge 80 pages. Other comics, especially team books, should have put out quarterly comics like this. DC did, especially with Green Lantern Quarterly, but that spent more time with Green Lanterns you'd never heard about. The Justice League Quarterly worked with the regular set of characters.

Superman: Birthright #12 of 12. What a great series this was. Worth every penny. A lot of WOW factors.

Superman: Birthright #11 of 12.

Superman: Birthright #10 of 12.

Superman: Birthright #9 of 12.

Superman: Birthright #8 of 12.

Superman: Birthright #7 of 12.

Superman: Birthright #6 of 12.

Superman: Birthright #5 of 12.

Superman: Birthright #4 of 12.

Superman: Birthright #3 of 12.

Superman: Birthright #2 of 12.

Hubble turns 15 today. It is a picture like this that I know we are not alone in the universe.Go find more at

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Adam Hughes does an interesting Superman too.

Here is a Christopher Reeve comparison to the outfit. And a background with the flag to check the red.

Brandon Routh in costume. Traditional, at least, and not overly muscular. A lot like Christopher Reeve.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Workings of a Haiku

The Workings of a Haiku

Of all poetry, probably the tightest of form and structure is the haiku. While a sonnet asks for fourteen lines of iambic pentameter to explicate its argument, a haiku demands precision in only seventeen Japanese syllables. The standard Japanese haiku consists of three lines, the first having five syllables, the second having seven syllables, and the third having another five syllables. This seems ridiculous that a poem can be that short. Meaning can't be expressed in only seventeen precious syllables. That last sentence was seventeen syllables. Maybe fewer words can drive home a point deeper than volumes.

Empty shelf—
dusty outlines of books
my parents read.
--Kirsty Krakow

This short poem is only thirteen precious syllables. These thirteen syllables tell us a far deeper story than a novel because it leaves the reader to fill in the precious details. “Today, many bilingual poets and translators in the mainstream North American haiku scene agree that something in the vicinity of 11 English syllables is a suitable approximation of 17 Japanese syllables, in order to convey about the same amount of information as well as the brevity and the fragmented quality found in Japanese haiku” (Imaoka).

According to Japanese haiku master Matsuo Basho, “You can learn about pine only from the pine, or about bamboo only from the bamboo. When you see an object, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself, otherwise you impose yourself on the object, and do not learn. The object and yourself must become one, and from that feeling of oneness issues your poetry. However well phrased it may be, if your feeling is not natural—and if object and yourself are separate—then your poetry is not true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit.” This poem by Krakow does this because that book shelf really tells the story, not Krakow.

Had Krakow chosen another form of poetry, she would have told us the story from her perspective. Her perspective would entail how the parents removed the books from her purview, and what all that meant. By looking at it from the shelf, an “empty shelf,” we are forced to see it from the perspective of an empty shelf and all that entails.

The empty shelf holds the mystery. The books were there once, apparently long enough to leave “dusty outlines.” Her parents read these books; she has not read them. Herein lies the story: those books are now gone for some reason. The speaker did not receive the knowledge or stories from them. She has not repopulated the shelf with a library of her own because the shelf is empty. Is she lamenting this fact or merely pointing it out? There is no personal interaction with the shelf and the speaker. There is only the shelf and a vague physical description of all that is on the shelf.

Krakow was not leaving a “subjective counterfeit.” She does not tell you how she feels about the empty shelf, leaving her “subjective preoccupation” behind. It is the reader that assigns meaning to the few syllables because that is what a reader does. The shelf is the object, and only the bare physical description is written. What we learn about the ramifications of that description is the same as a tall pine tree explaining itself to us. One need only look up at a pine tree to find the answer. The pine cannot speak, but somehow, just by looking, we understand its meaning by simply looking at it.

Works cited:

Imaoka, Keiko. “Keiko Haiku Rules.” Online.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Matt Butcher
English 640
April 19, 2005

The Reason for Open Verse in Eliot's “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

In the early twentieth-century, poets strove for the improvisation of poetic forms while still regarding the classical structures. In What is Poetry: Conversations with the American Avant-garde by Daniel Kane, he holds that there are certain characteristics among contemporary avant-garde poets: “blending of high and low language, blurring of lines between prose and poetry, enthusiastic use of humor, [and an] employment of collage techniques...” (Hertzler). Most of these are prevalent in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot, one of the forerunners of this avant-garde poetry.

One of the reasons that Eliot chose Open Verse in this poem is that the speaker, a neurotic yet eloquent man, as indicated by the highbrow name he writes in the title, is educated enough to know of the poetry forms but is emotionally stifled enough to never use them properly. First of all, he quotes from Dante's Inferno in the epigraph to the poem, which translates as the speaker addressing his ideal audience.

If I thought that my reply would be to someone who would
ever return to earth, this flame would remain without further
movement; but as no one has ever returned alive from this gulf,
if what I hear is true, I can answer you with no fear of infamy (Lozano).

Simply quoting this shows his aristocratic, gentlemanly demeanor, yet in it the speaker acknowledges the fact that there is no such sympathetic figure. So he goes about it with only himself as the audience for the rest of the poem. That's where the avant-garde characteristics begin to merge together. With no discernible audience, he can hop from one form to another.

The blending of high and low language is subtle yet prevalent in such instances as the first few lines when he says “spread out” and “etherized” in the same sentence. He describes “butt-ends” of cigarettes yet uses the complex image of himself as being analyzed like an insect collection if he is “pinned and wriggling on the wall.” He refers to complicated understandings of world culture in several places, like Hamlet, Michelangelo, Lazarus, John the Baptist, as well as the epigraph's Inferno. He refers to them though in very simple terms, for instance: “In the room the women come and go, /Talking of Michelangelo.”
The blurring of prose and poetry is done through the poem's use of dramatic monologue. The rhyming tends to keep a coherence to the poem that free verse would have made depressing. By the speaker trying to use poetic rhyme and meter, there is a sense of hope for humanity and its art in the poem. And when there is the stray line, it only stresses the important line more. In one stanza, there is an abbbcccc and then the phrase that cuts to the bone, “Do I dare /disturb the universe?” followed by a poetic twisting of words with “In a minute there is time /For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

There are many instances of an enthusiastic use of humor. “I grow old . . .I grow old . . ./I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” Even with the depressing weight of age, something he thinks about with a heavy sigh twice, he still sees the humor in the dress of the more aged, something that he is slowly becoming. He needs this humor to face the stark reality.

The most avant-garde aspect to this poem is its fragmentation of poetic forms as a way to employ a sort of collage of poetry. There are fragments to the form of the sonnet. The last three stanzas in particular are rhymed and styled as a Petrarchan sonnet, yet there is a single line interjection that connotes the real dread of the poem. “I do not think that they [mermaids] will sing to me.” The use of the refrain “In the room the women come and go, /Talking of Michelangelo” hearkens back to earlier poetic conventions in the ballad. This fragmentation speaks of Prufrock's mind and the society that he struggles against. Eliot's image of the crab links to this fragmentation. “I should have been a pair of ragged claws /Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” This scavenger image brings to mind how Eliot wishes to fuse the pieces of past poetic form to new contemporary poetry.

Works cited:

Lozano, Amy.


I had the recent 1991 Gulf War, Operation: Desert Storm, and Whitman on my mind with this one.


To war, to war!
Those countries to be bored.
The day is foul and fair of a kind,
A great paradox of the mind.

To war, to war!
O kiss those soldiers goodbye!
For when thou see'st them again,
No longer boys but men.

To war, to war!
O won't they ever learn?
Pity on them all and dear,
Pity they not seek'st me.

To war, to war!
Centuries have not taught.
Or Hitler had not fallen
And Hussein be not in sight.

To war! To war!
O answer me please.
Mom and Dad say, "Stop fighting!"
O can't the world say these?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I wrote a series of numbered poems in high school. Here's the first.


Ever seen a masterpiece?
Not I, until you.
Not all the world's great artists
Could compose of you.

Ever seen a Wonder?
Not I, until you.
Architecture times seven
Is too low a number.

Ever seen true love?
Not I, until you.
I hope you can see
What you mean'st to me.

Free Comics

Two more free comics from DC in .pdf files.

Vertigo's The Preacher.

Alan Moore's Tom Strong.

Student artwork. I love hanging this one in a prominent position. It's a subtle way of telling a student not to mess with me. Now all I need is a necklace of fingers...

Madison's baby footprints.

Madison's birth photo. Harrison Hospital in Silverdale had a website to tell all your friends and relatives about to go see the baby.

Superman: Birthright #1 of 12. A modern retelling of the Superman origin. All twelve issues comprise an absolutely excellent story.

Superman in "The Computers That Saved Metropolis" from July 1980. A promotional comic. It is interesting to see the computers and what they thought they could do in a flash.

Superman: Emperor Joker #1. From October 2000, the Joker steals Mr. Mxyzptlk's omnipotent powers.

The Day

It was a busy day today. A lot happened.

Madison turned two today and in my usual introspective and retrospective style, I internalized my disbelief to her turning two, and all that that entailed on my age and her age and the world in general that she will get to see...

A new pope is elected, a year older than my own grandfather Don in Florida. It just makes me think of conspiracy theories, secret consortiums of a handful of people that really run the world over the leaders we think about, and multicultural aspects to the papacy that I'm not going into today.

And then my bunny passed away. Belle. I had that bunny since 1998. Took her cross country with me in my Big Move in 1999 to live here in Washington state. That's old by bunny standards but I am still going to miss the little white fluffball, as she kept me company in some of my loneliest times.

Good night, Belle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

It's the end of the world, part II (which is a contradiction, isn't it? I mean, how can you have part II of the end of the world? But I digress...)

Another response to the Reader Response Journal, this one even more frightening than the last, I think.

"Yes I could imagine a world without books. It would be a world of peacefullness. More people would be outside rather than inside reading about imaginary things that fill your head with ideas. If I could keep 3 books behind they would have to be The Guiness Book of World Records, the Bible, and this one book I read in the beginning of 8th grade."

You can honestly see now how the people in power in 1984, Brave New World, The Giver, Fahrenheit 451 came into power. No one stopped them.

Random tidbits from Reader Response

Can you imagine a world without books?

"Those are the [books] I would miss the most it wouldn't effect me much because I do not read to much."

"To tell you the truth I wouldn't mind if there gone because I Realy dont Read them..."

"It would be good because I really dont like reading that much. I would rather have somebody read to me. It would be bad because there would be no movies most likely."

"I think it would be hard to Live without book's but I don't Like to Read So If I had to Pick 3 book's I would Pick 3 Sport's book's."

Monday, April 18, 2005

It's the end of the world

I had to share:

I started class with their Reader Response Journal with this topic written on the board concerning The Giver by Lois Lowry: Each dwelling in the community had only three reference books. (page 74) Jonas "...had never known that other books existed." Can you imagine a world without books? Which books would you miss the most? List your favorite three books and then compare your list with the lists of other students.

Here is one response (unedited):

I can't amagn a world without books. but I dont like to read books, complete waist of my time, plus Im too lazy. If you haven't figured out already I dont have a favorite book. but if I had to choose: it would be: Harry potter: the chamber of Secrets, Holes, and Goosebumps: the monster Blood.

Got Superman?

Superman: War of the Worlds. An Elseworlds tale--what if Superman was around during the martian invasion of H.G. Wells' novel. Pretty decent.

Superman Plus #1. From February 1997. A terrible comic book. I don't know why they did this one-shot.

Superman Secret Files and Origins 2004.

Superman Metropolis Secret Files #1 from July 2000

Superman Forever #1. Scan doesn't do this cover justice. It is a brilliant moving cover by Alex Ross that shows Clark Kent changing into Superman and then flying into action.

Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography. This was a decent one-shot, focusing on what made Luthor the criminal that he is. A reporter tracks down the real dirt on Luthor. Clark Kent is framed for murder. Superman doesn't appear in costume once. A really good read.

The Legacy of Superman #1. After Superman's death, the other heroes of Metropolis feel they must do something. Too bad they put this out because it was pretty bad, except for the cool Arthur Adams cover.